Factors that Led to The Red Summer of 1919


The Red summer of 1919 was a period where hundreds of people died, and many others were injured in the United States. It was a white supremacy battle where the white people attacked black Americans fought back.These cases were most experienced in Washington, D.C, and Chicago; they also had significant numbers of casualties. Their supremacy battle also took place in American rural areas. The Red summer that took place in 1919 was caused by several factors, which include; race differences, political issues, ideology, socioeconomics, and foreign affairs.

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The first factor that resulted in the Red Summer was racial differences. The war in America was based on white supremacy such that the whites attacked the black Americans, and the black people fought back.The problem between the blacks and white people started having social tensions after world war I. They were competing for jobs, economic slump, and housing issues. During the time, there were disagreements related to labor issues because, in industries, black people were treated differently compared to the whites.Therefore, there was increased hatred for the blacks who were given the strikebreakers’ jobs. The war started as peaceful protests against the unfair treatment of black people by the whites. The protest was organized by the NAACP- National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.Due to the white resentment for blacks, the tensions heightened, and riots against black people also began.Another issue was the stoning to death of a black boy who had accidentally drowned in lake Michigan and drifted to a residential reserved for the whites. The people responsible were not arrested despite the police knowing them, and this angered the black people.

The second factor is the political issues in America. In the period (1919), the American federal governmentlived in fear of activists, the press, and foreign anarchists. The human rights activists and social communist groups had a lot of influence on the black civil rights movement and would have easily triggered riots among the blacks fighting (McWhirter, 2011). The presscovered everything that was happening, especially the heightened tensions among the blacks and whites—broadcasting the issues to all America made the government even more scared of war erupting.Assigns of violence erupting, the government and the people feared there could be coup attempts where soviets would try to overthrow the American government. The blacks were also viewed as competitors when it came to political power. The military did not go in there to ease the situation. Instead, they saw the blacks with caution as people who were trying to overthrow the government. The whites took advantage of this and formed riot groups all over the country that attacked, wounded, and killed some black Americans.

The third factor is based on ideology. The whites despised black Americans after the world war because they saw them as more competitors than equals. The black American population was rising. Therefore the whites had to compete for jobs and housing facilities. The white people, therefore, wanted the black people to leave America. The aim was to start violence such that the rest of black peoplewould be scared and run away. The whites believed the black people were taking up their jobs, their place physically, socially, and soon would try to take over the country (Summer, 1919). They, therefore, resulted in black people resentment because, to them, they caused unemployment, competition. Because of them, theprice controls were done away with, and in turn,the inflation levels increased. The authorities viewed the belief that the blacks were equals and trying to fight for their rights as an attempt to overthrow the government, which resulted in the start of the violence. Black people who worked for the press and tried to advocate for the rights of their people through the media were killed, and others arrested and tortured.

The other issue is the social-economic factors. After world war 1, the tensions between black people and whites increased significantly. The black Americans got jobs and settled down to start their lives. Their population also began to grow, and this did not settle well with the indigenous white people.This is because, to accommodate the black-Americans,there were a lot of changes in society, including social and economicreforms. Both white and black people had to compete for jobs, which were fewer compared to the population at that time. The people also had to fight for housing facilities. The population was rising, and the black people had become more independent after world war I. Everyone was trying to find a job and settle down, which was proving to be hard, and the whites blamed it on the black people and resented them.

Foreign affairs were also a significant issue that resulted in the Red Summer of 1919. In the same period, there had been a revolution in Russia, which was called the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, which the government feared that it would motivate similar reactions and a possible revolution in America. There was also the issue of foreign anarchistsbombing Americans. They mainly attacked the homes and businesses of wealthy and prominent Americans and even those who help prominent positions in the government (Hodges, 2019). The tactics used in the attacks were a revolution and a part of the demonstration’s tactics used in the white superiority complex.

The occurrence of the Red Summer of 1919 can be considered to be one of the most violent years of a violent era but not an aberration. The occurrence of the Red Summer was just after the end of world war 1. The issue was not so unexpected since the whites had always treated black people as inferiors. The whites could not easily accept them as equals and as a part of the society because they felt they were taking up their place.The blacks were recruited to fight for America in world war I, and after the war, they expected the whites would let them enjoy the fruits of what they fought for. During this period, just after world war I, there was many revolutions, and acts of violence were everywhere, including Russia and German. The tensions were high, and it resulted in the formation of racist rioters who attacked the blacks in America. The black who had now gained courage after the first world war fought back to defend themselves.

In the 19thcentury and the beginning of the 20th century, most disagreements between groups of people were solved throughfights and wars, and the winning party had their way. It was, therefore, a norm that the whites would only solve their issue with the blacks through war. The tension between the whites and blacks had heightened to very high levels, and over time, people expected violence would erupt between the two groups in an attempt to each have their way. The fact that black people had been at war, they were now skilled to fight and had seen what war was like. It was, therefore, not unexpected for them to demand their rights and equal treatment. The whites also expected them to fight back, just like it happens in war (Tuttle, 1970). Their plan was actually to keep fighting until all the black people were out of the country. As in the past, America used to struggle when trying to take over a nation, and in turn, the state would fight back. The rioters were fighting back to what they believed was the black Americans trying to take over their country.

In conclusion, according to the factors that led to Red Summer 1919, the main issues revolved around competition for jobs, housing competition, and fears that the blacks would take over their country. The military did not try to end the violence and instead viewed the blacks as possible revolutionists who were trying to take over. The violence against blacks was expected because, at the time, violence and war was the most common way of resolving conflicts. Also, the tensions between blacks and whites had been built-up over time and would have eventually erupted. Even though blacks had participated in the war and fought on behalf of America, Americans were not ready to accept the blacks as equals or part of society. The blacks, however, asked for equal rights and treatment, which resulted in a blood bath in 1919 called “The Red Summer of 1919”.




Tuttle, W. M. (1970). Race riot: Chicago in the red summer of 1919 (Vol. 82). University of Illinois Press.

Summer, R. (1919). Chicago race riot of 1919. Red

McWhirter, C. (2011). Red Summer: The summer of 1919 and the awakening of Black America. Henry Holt and Company.

Hodges, A. J. (2019). Understanding a National and Global Red Scare/Red Summer Through the Local Invention of Solidarities. The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era18(1), 81-98.


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